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The Predictive Power of Personality

by Melissa Moore

“Did you check the spam folder?” gets me every single time. As soon as the agent utters those words, I become a different customer. Not by choice; it’s just my normal immediate response to someone suggesting that I do not know what I am doing. It’s also a guarantee that it will be a difficult call for the agent as well as for me.

How is it that some people, intentionally as well as unintentionally, seem to know exactly how to push our buttons? I firmly believe that if the agent received a big red alert pop-up “say this and abandon all hope,” they would rephrase their inquiry. Your red alert is probably different than mine, but you know what it is, and you know what happens. And by the way, some agents seem to know exactly what to say that has me thanking them profusely at the end of the call. Why is this?

Productive, Effective Communication The Process Communication Model suggests that how we say something is just as important as what we say. PCM is a language-based typology of 6 unique personality styles, each with its own communication preferences. Preference indicators include tone and tempo, keywords, phrases, grammar, and syntax. These language patterns “advertise” a person’s preference for how they interact and how they prefer to be interacted with.

While everyone has access to all six of these communication styles, each of us has a base, foundational personality part which strongly defines our language and orientation to the world. By recognizing and responding to language advertisements, productive, effective communication takes place. Ignore them and “abandon all hope.”

Personality And The Contact Center Applying this concept is key in the contact center. When we interact with people face to face, we get many clues as to how the interaction is proceeding, and most of us know immediately when what we have said was not what was heard. In a phone or chat interaction, all we have is language, and this is where leveraging personality can change the outcome to a positive one leading to higher customer satisfaction, shorter call times, fewer callbacks plus greater agent satisfaction, an often overlooked metric when thinking about customer interaction.

Six Paths to Customer Service Gold Training in contact centers often focuses on mirroring the customer to build rapport. If they talk fast, talk fast. If they laugh, laugh. When you are the customer, is that really what you want?

Personally, I want someone to handle my call in the manner that best gets to a resolution and also recognizes that my call is important to me. That sounds like what we all want, but for me, this means managing the interaction by being respectful, recognizing my loyalty when applicable, and taking responsibility for the issue on behalf of the organization. For you, it might mean something different. My personality style is Advisor, and some agents are naturally better equipped to successfully handle my call than others, and their past performance metrics with Advisor calls will demonstrate that. It may be that some of those agents are Advisors, but pairing customers and agents based upon the same personality style is not the same as pairing with someone with a measured track record of success, no matter their personality. It is true that past interactions are the best predictor for future interactions. The same holds true for agent coaching, but that’s another blog for another day.

Here is an introductory look at all six styles:

Personality“Sounds Like” Service Means AdvisorFormal, DeliberateRespectful and CommittedConnectorFriendly, PersonableCaring and SupportiveDoerSmooth, DirectBottom-line and DirectDreamerQuiet, DetachedCalm and ImpersonalOrganizerFactual, MethodicalSpecific and TransactionalOriginalAnimated, CasualDirective and InteractiveWhen we think of the personalities as people, you can easily imagine how you would handle them differently. Let me give you an example looking at just two of the styles. In pop culture, examples of Connectors include Taylor Swift, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Reese Witherspoon, and Leonard (Big Bang Theory). Organizer examples include Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, Spock, and Monica Geller (Friends). For Connectors, providing caring and supportive help while working with them is key to a successful interaction. The relationship, however brief, is important to them. For Organizers, a successful interaction is one that provides the specific information they need in order to resolve the issue. It’s important to them to be able to cross this item off of their to-do list.

We all know people with similar personalities, and we also know that personally, we would prefer to handle one style over another if given a choice! The same holds true for the customer; we all have that experience where we just want to hang up and call again with the goal of reaching an agent that truly “gets” us. And when we have that successful personality pairing, there is productive, effective communication. The call is relatively painless, and we hang up satisfied.

Agents Are Part of the Personality Pairing Equation Too We know that there is a positive impact on the customer and the organization when personality pairing is present. But what about the agent? Is there an impact on them?

As with customers, your agent pool represents all six personality styles. You have some agents who can easily and successfully adapt to multiple styles; however, the majority would prefer to handle one style over another. When we interact with someone that is harder for us to understand and/or communicate with (common reactions “what language are they speaking?”, “just get to the point already!” or my favorite, the silent eye-roll) it takes more of our energy. Imagine one of your agents prefers to talk with the Connectors of the world and is really good at that, but they get 3 Organizers in a row. After doing their job quite capably, they are exhausted and have more callers on hold. By the end of the day, they are worn out. Now imagine that same agent talks to Connector customers the majority of the day. They are energized and love their job. And when you have an agent who is energized by interacting with Organizers, their job satisfaction increases when they get to handle a higher mix of Organizer calls throughout the day. Higher job satisfaction tends to lead to higher discretionary effort and lower agent turnover.

Personality Pairing Outside of the Contact Center If you have any doubts that positive personality pairing creates productive and effective communication, think about the people you prefer to go to lunch with at work or to talk through a personal issue with outside of work. We gravitate to those that we naturally connect with and those that give us more energy than they take. These folks aren’t always the same personality style as us, but they complement our traits, and we do the same for them. The big difference here is that there are other visual personality advertisements when we are face-to-face. We often have the option to choose our interactions a little more freely. In the contact center, we are much more limited to who we get as agents and whom the agent receives as a caller. By including personality in its customer-agent matches, Predictive Behavioral Routing increases the odds of a positive outcome – a winning strategy for customers, agents, and businesses alike.

Melissa Moore Melissa Moore is founder of Moore Insights Group, a consultancy supporting companies’ efforts to increase employee engagement, productivity and leadership effectiveness. MIG leverages personality as a unique window into human behavior and understanding why people do what they do and their preferred communication channel for productive and effective interactions. Prior to her current venture, Melissa was Chief People Officer and Senior Personality Expert at Mattersight, the pioneer in Predictive Behavioral Routing, acquired by NICE in 2018.

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